The stark nature of the problem was set out in the 2018-22 KCC Schools Commissioning Plan, on pages 159/160 as follows: although the 2019 Plan tries to disguise it!
There is significant pressure for Year 7 places across the Borough that rises from a forecast deficit of 121 places in 2018-19 to a peak of 245 in 2022-23. There is particular pressure in the urban areas, with approximately 8FE deficit of places forecast in central Tunbridge Wells for the September 2018 intake, based on published admissions numbers. The forecast demand indicated in the table above is skewed by surplus capacity in Cranbrook, which is outside of the historical travel to learn distance for children resident in Tunbridge Wells Town. Consequently the pressure on places in Tunbridge Wells Town will be approximately 3 FE greater than indicated in the table. It was previously anticipated that the majority of the central Tunbridge Wells demand would be met by a new 6FE free school from 2018/19. The Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) had agreed to undertake purchase of the identified site in conjunction with TWBC and KCC. No Wave 12 application was submitted to sponsor the free school. This alongside the ESFA’s change in policy around speculative land purchases, has meant that a new school could not be delivered before 2020 at the earliest, necessitating the expansion of existing schools for 2018-19 and 2019-20.
In order to address the demand for Year 7 places we are working with existing Secondary schools in the Tunbridge Wells urban areas to offer 190 temporary Year 7 places in 2018-19, leading to 4.3FE permanent provision and 120 temporary places for 2019-20. During the 2017-18 year we will finalise proposals to establish a further 6FE of provision from 2020-21.
The second quotation 'the strategic response to this demand is a proposed 6FE expansion of an existing school or a new school from 2021-22’, comes from the Kent Commissioning Plan for 2019-2023, as explored in my article on 2019 school allocations, here, and which is clearly some years away The article also explores the problem of two thirds of TW non-selective places being in the two church schools: Bennett Memorial Diocesan (CofE) and St Gregory’s Catholic which select on religious grounds, and also admit some 50 children a year from outside Kent, to displace further children. As a result, for 2019, some 55 TW boys were offered places at Hayesbrook School in Tonbridge, the nearest school with vacancies for boys, and another 40, probably all girls, at High Weald Academy in distant Cranbrook the nearest school with vacancies for girls. Both these two latter schools were awash with vacancies.
Meanwhile a common bolthole for many TW families, the comprehensive Beacon Academy in Crowborough, which took 82 Kent children in 2018, admitted none in 2019 as it was full of local children.
Whilst it is clear from the above that local candidates for Parliament have no awareness of the crisis or interest in it, local families of children who are not found to be suitable for grammar schools can expect no favours from the winner of the Tunbridge Wells election. Sadly having listened to several of the other Radio Kent local constituency programmes, they appear no more ill informed than in other districts. Apart from extravagant promises from the magic money pot for education, on the ground the coming and chronic shortage of school places and education in general are clearly not seen as a priority for anyone.